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Archive for the ‘College buildings’ Category

Today we’re taking a quick peek at the Amherst of 120 years ago. William J. Newlin was a student at Amherst College from 1895 to 1899, he later returned as a Mathematics and Philosophy professor and taught here for nearly fifty years. We have a handful of glass plate negatives that Newlin took as a student and that now reside in our photograph collection. Followed by the photographs of Allan W. Forbes a mere ten years later, these images tell an interesting story about life at Amherst College a little more than 100 years ago.

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1830-Tyler-Wm-1837-Jan-30-p4-to-bro-Wellington-env

An old letter is like a present.  Its handwriting is the wrapping paper: before you can see or know the present, you have to unwrap it.  The present may be lousy, something you’ll quickly forget.  Or it might be something you keep, something you take with you, maybe even something that changes your life.  But you’ll never know until you unwrap it.

Sometimes a present is for sharing, like the one-pound chocolate bar in your colleague’s desk drawer.  I recently unwrapped such a present –a letter full of delicious nuggets — and want to share it with you because it has lingered in my mind ever since I first read it.

Tyler-WS-fr-autobio-ca1840The letter is from William Seymour Tyler, Class of 1830, to his brother Wellington Hart Tyler, Class of 1831.  The letter is dated January 30, 1837, when both men were in their mid-twenties.  Wellington (apparently nicknamed “Edward”) was principal at an academy in Manlius, New York, while William was at Amherst College teaching Latin and Greek and heading into his glory days as the man whose tardiness inspired the founding of the Philopogonian Society. We often think of Edward Hitchcock, professor and president, as the emblem of early Amherst College, but Tyler was here just as long and served just as devotedly. His “History of Amherst College” continues to be a very valuable, reliable resource, and he was the author of other, more modest works, including the nicely named “Why Sit Ye Here Idle?” (more…)

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This picture was take looking south at Walker Hall (left) and Williston Hall and college row (right). Forbes was standing on what would now be the street in front of the Armes Music Center.

This picture was taken on May 10th, 1906, looking south at Walker Hall (left) and Williston Hall and college row (right). Forbes was standing on what would now be the street in front of the Arms Music Center.

One of the projects that I’m working on right now is a complete survey of all the photographic and audio/visual materials in our collections. The ultimate goal of the survey is to make sure that all of these vulnerable materials are being housed in appropriate conditions and to flag items that need conservation work or conversion off of unplayable media.

An impromptu gravestone for one, A. Pair Pants, from October 25, 1906. The text at the bottom reads, "died of skunk juice."

An impromptu grave for one A. Pair Pants, from October 25, 1906. The text at the bottom reads, “died of skunk juice.”

In the course of this project, it has been my deep pleasure to explore the many small collections of photography by students, professors and others associated with the college. One of my personal favorites is the collection of Allan W. Forbes, class of 1908. Forbes, who went on to become an engineer after Amherst, was clearly a passionate amateur photographer. His collection contains more than 100 glass plate negatives, nearly 40 nitrate negatives and prints of around half of the images. (more…)

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Ben Fiedler and Blair Kamin in the common room of Mayo-Smith dormitory (formerly Chi Psi Lodge),  January 2015. (Photo by Janna Joassainte'17/Amherst College, Office of Communications)

Ben Fiedler ’17 and Blair Kamin ’79 in the common room of Mayo-Smith House (formerly Chi Psi Lodge), January 2015. (Photo by Janna Joassainte’17/Amherst College, Office of Communications)

Leave me alone, I’m on deadline!

During the college’s Interterm session that just ended, I enjoyed participating in a one-week class that made extensive use of the College Archives. “The Houses of Amherst College” was an intensive architectural appraisal of the thirteen former fraternity houses on campus. It was led by Blair Kamin ’79, the award-winning architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune. Blair is in the process of writing a comprehensive architectural guide to Amherst College, to be published in 2018 as part of the Campus Guide series by Princeton Architectural Press. All of the students in the class (including myself) wrote a brief essay on one of the houses, which will provide material for the published guide.

Seligman House, formerly Theta Delta Chi. Putnam and Cox, architects, 1921.

Seligman House, formerly Theta Delta Chi. Putnam and Cox, architects, 1921.

(more…)

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As we have mentioned in earlier posts, newly digitized material from the Archives will be added to Amherst College Digital Collections on a regular basis. This week I want to call attention to the nearly complete run of Amherst College yearbooks — The Olio — now available online.

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Appleton Museum GuideWhen Millicent Todd Bingham and Richard Sewall wrote their biographies of Emily Dickinson, they each included a section about the influence upon the poet of President Edward Hitchcock and Amherst College. Bingham and Sewall sought to show that one can see in Dickinson’s poems – in her ideas, imagery, and unexpected vocabulary – the effect of Hitchcock and the college he helped establish.

The science cabinets at the College were among Dickinson’s Amherst-related influences.  They housed specimens of minerals, shells, fossils, and animals gathered by Hitchcock and his colleagues over the course of their careers and were important campus attractions.  Edward Dickinson, the poet’s father, contributed $50 to the Woods cabinet and $100 to Appleton, and his children were no doubt part of the thousands of people who visited them over the decades. There is evidence that Emily attended the opening of the Woods Cabinet (mineralogy, meteorology, geology) in the Octagon in 1848, and she probably also visited the Appleton Cabinet (zoology and ichnology) when it opened in 1855.

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One of the strengths of the Emily Dickinson Collection at Amherst College is the large number of manuscript fragments — scraps of paper, pieces of envelopes, and a range of other ephemera on which Dickinson jotted a few lines, or even entire poems. One such fragment is identified by Thomas Johnson as “Prose Fragment #96” in his edition of Dickinson’s letters. It’s Amherst manuscript #868: “Of our deepest delights”

Emily Dickinson. "Of our deepest delights" Amherst #868

Emily Dickinson. “Of our deepest delights” Amherst #868

This fragment is clearly a piece of a concert program, but no one seems ever to have done the work to find out more about this piece. Fortunately, there is an important clue present on both sides of the paper:

Emily Dickinson. "Of our deepest delights" Verso.

Emily Dickinson. “Of our deepest delights” Verso.

If the program had been torn in half just a little higher up the page, the name Howard Parkhurst might have been lost. As it is, a quick check of the Amherst College Biographical Record (Sesquicentennial Edition, 1973) reveals that he was a member of the Class of 1873. It also tells us that he studied music in Stuttgart, Munich, and Berlin as well as Liverpool between 1873 and 1875. From 1875 – 1882 he taught music and served as organist for various churches around Boston, then it was back to Germany for a couple of years to study with Rheinberger and Kellarmann. Finally, Parkhurst settled in New York city where he taught music and published books about birds from 1884 until his death in 1916.

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